Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) is pushing the House of Representatives to pass his Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, focused on addressing mental health in healthcare professionals. On Wednesday, Kaine held a press conference touting the passage of his bill in the Senate.
“You all have a story about how the time of coronavirus has affected you just as I have a story. But in particular, in particular, the effect of the last year-and-a-half on our front-line health care workers has been incredibly dramatic,” Kaine said.
Kaine said health care workers are frustrated by a lack of clear guidance and a lack of public cooperation with health safety measures. They’re also witnesses to tragedy.
He said, “The stresses of being a healer before the pandemic were very, very significant. The suicide rate for people who are physicians was dramatically higher than the suicide population.”
Breen was a physician from Charlottesville who died by suicide while working in the pandemic in New York in spring 2020. Her sister and brother-in-law Jennifer Breen Feist and Corey Feist joined Kaine at the event, alongside two Fairfax County physicians. The Feists are the founders of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation.
Kaine originally introduced the bill in July 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act had funding for provisions similar to some in the bill. In August, the Senate passed the bill in a voice vote. It requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide grants to health care organizations for programs promoting mental health and resiliency. It also allows the HHS to award grants for mental and behavioral health training for health care students, residents, and professionals. It also requires HHS to conduct a campaign encouraging health care providers to seek help for mental health concerns, and disseminate best practices.
The companion bill in the House has over one hundred co-sponsors, but no vote has been taken on it. Representative Susan Wild (D-PA-07) is the lead sponsor.
Kaine said, “She feels very, very confident that once we’re over the hurdle on the reconciliation bill that we’re working on now, that this has a superb chance of passage.”
“This issue existed before the pandemic, and we know that the pandemic has only made it worse. So we’re here today to tell you that together with Senator Kaine and a bi-partisan, bicameral group, we have gathered industry leaders to develop a bill that will be an immediate and long-term impact on this critical issue that affects all of us in this country, and actually in the world,” Jennifer Breen Feist said.
“This is first of its kind legislation,” she said. “We need to take a collective stand to show that we are here for our healthcare workers who are here for us.”